After repeatedly interrupting the “wet-suit rehearsal” of the Artemis 1 lunar rocket, NASA has successfully completed the crucial refueling test of its Space Launch System (SLS) mega-rocket.
Dress rehearsal for Artemis 1 ended at 7:37 p.m. EDT on June 20, NASA said in a statement.
“This is the first time the team has fully loaded all propellant tanks on the SLS rocket and conducted the terminal launch countdown, when many critical activities follow in quick succession,” the US space agency said. .
However, the test did not go smoothly.
During propellant loading operations, the team encountered a hydrogen leak in the quick disconnect that connects an umbilical from the mobile launcher’s tail service mast to the rocket’s center stage.
While the team attempted to repair the leak by reheating the quick disconnect and then cooling it to realign a seal, their efforts did not fix the problem, NASA said.
The team then intentionally “masked” the data associated with the issue to let the countdown continue. During an actual launch countdown, such data would have raised red flags. This change meant a delay, “but they were able to resume with the last 10 minutes of the countdown,” NASA said.
“Today’s #Artemis I wet rehearsal activities have concluded after a modified countdown setup and the successful addition of propellant to the rocket. We will review the data and meet to discuss next steps” , mission officials wrote on Twitter.
The final test is the culmination of months of assembly and testing for SLS and Orion, as well as preparations by the launch control and engineering teams, and sets the stage for the first launch of Artemis.
Artemis 1 was previously scheduled to launch in late May 2022. However, due to multiple delays in its dress rehearsal, the mega moon rocket has been pushed further.
A successful final test could set the stage for its first launch in August, NASA had said earlier.
The uncrewed Artemis I mission is the first flight of the SLS rocket and the Orion spacecraft together. Future missions will send people to work in lunar orbit and on the surface of the Moon.
With the Artemis missions, NASA will land the first woman and first person of color on the Moon and establish long-range exploration in preparation for missions to Mars.